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How to write about Failure for INSEAD MBA Essay

Just like with achievements where you can quantify the impact in money saved, time saved, revenue earned, increase in responsibility, and brand reach, failures could also affect the five pillars.

After a failure, typically the management decreases the responsibility by assigning the candidate to low-stake projects. The demotion is perhaps the most discouraging after-effect of failure. In an entrepreneurial environment, the leadership is tolerant and assigns the candidate to a similar project with oversight to demonstrate that as a culture, they are not afraid of failing.


1) Reaction to Failure

Candidates react in two ways to failure. One group finds the event as feedback on their effectiveness in a job function. The event triggers the search for an alternative career in a different function or industry.  In MBA Application essays, you can use this narrative but be careful, as explaining career switching cues takes more than 250 words, which you should allocate for the INSEAD MBA failure section of the question.


The second group takes it as a hint that they have underestimated the problem. By breaking down the problem to technology, operational, and management tasks, the candidate approaches the problem with a new outlook. The renewed focus could be summarized as a ‘life lesson’ or a perspective about ‘market, negotiation, leadership, mentorship, persuasion or creative problem solving’ depending on the industry and function you are serving.

2) A helping hand

Failures are rarely a moment of absolute abandonment. Supervisors and colleagues rise to the occasion and mentor candidates through the low, demonstrating leadership values that could be passed on. Instead of writing about your doubts and innermost fears, you can write about the ‘helping hand’ and the traits they applied in supporting you back to normalcy.


3) Exposure

The failure narrative also exposes the admission team to the constraints under which you were working. Some cultures – nationality and company, don’t look down on failures but encourages the players to dust their behind, learn, and try again. While for others, failure is often equated to a lack of discipline in anticipating roadblocks. The sensitivity towards risk, although has a correlation with the size of the company, the organizational structure, the country of origin, and the Founder’s ideals influence the managers’ attitude towards failure. The narrative should capture all the three data without passing on the blame to anyone. Absolute ownership is a highly attractive trait.


4) Corrective Action and Comeback

Every memorable story has a comforting redemption arc. In MBA application essays, it is narrated through the corrective action and the lessons learned. Business schools want to recognize your skills in mapping failures to corrective action. When you learn a new concept and apply to the real world, there would be inevitable failures. If you are crushed by defeats, sponsored projects will be delayed, and skill acquisition would be limited. The admission team wants to recognize that you have the maturity to recognize failure as an event and not a judgment on the person.

Lessons learned narrative and applying it to a new problem demonstrates your ability to adapt.

Sample Essay: Achievements and Failures (398 Words) (Technology Consultant)
Sample Essay: Achievements and Failures (395 Words) (International Relations) (Negotiations)




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